Definition

data dictionary

A data dictionary is a collection of descriptions of the data objects or items in a data model for the benefit of programmers and others who need to refer to them. A first step in analyzing a system of objects with which users interact is to identify each object and its relationship to other objects. This process is called data modeling and results in a picture of object relationships. After each data object or item is given a descriptive name, its relationship is described (or it becomes part of some structure that implicitly describes relationship), the type of data (such as text or image or binary value) is described, possible predefined values are listed, and a brief textual description is provided. This collection can be organized for reference into a book called a data dictionary.

When developing programs that use the data model, a data dictionary can be consulted to understand where a data item fits in the structure, what values it may contain, and basically what the data item means in real-world terms. For example, a bank or group of banks could model the data objects involved in consumer banking. They could then provide a data dictionary for a bank's programmers. The data dictionary would describe each of the data items in its data model for consumer banking (for example, "Account holder" and ""Available credit").

This was last updated in September 2005

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